The Chinese government published the first results of a large-scale study into the 2019-nCoV virus on Tuesday. The conclusions indicate that the elderly and the (chronically) sick are most at risk and that more than 80 percent of the cases can be described as mild.

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The older the patient, the greater the chance that the person will succumb to the COVID-19 disease, the study found. The mortality rate was therefore highest among people over 80 (14.8 percent), followed by 70 to 79 year olds (8 percent) and 60 to 69 year olds (3.6 percent).

In addition, the risk of death appears to be greater for people who already had problems with their health, such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.

More than 44,000 cases were investigated in the investigation. At 2.3 percent, the mortality rate of the infected people investigated is considerably lower than that due to the SARS virus (9.6 percent), also a corona virus. In total, China has now reported more than 72,000 infections.

Figures still unreliable and difficult to interpret

With regard to these figures (and almost all other figures about the virus), it is, however, necessary to make reservations. For example, the death rate may not be representative of all people who contract the virus, for example because not all symptom-free infections were counted.

There is still much uncertainty about important aspects of the virus, such as the duration of the incubation period (the time between the infection and the appearance of the first symptoms) and that can have a major effect on the statistics.

Moreover, a lot depends on local counting methods. For example, the government in the Chinese province of Hubei last week decided to include all people with symptoms that could indicate 2019-nCoV (such as sneezing and coughing) in the statistics without first testing them for the presence of the virus.

RIVM: Not comparable with mortality due to flu

Most patients (81 percent) in the study had mild symptoms, 13.8 percent had severe symptoms and a small group (0.6 percent) did not record the severity of the symptoms.

According to the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), it is not comparable to the mortality as a result of the flu virus, the proportion of which is difficult to determine.

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